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March 2015 travel news 21
In the back of the brochuuuuuuuuuuuuuuure I was told.
I looked. “I can’t read this” I said, peering at it, with glasses on and not through screwed
up eyes which drives my kids bats, use your bloody glasses mum, you look like a mad
old woman doing that.
Oh yes, the park authorities cheerfully tell me, “Nobody can, it’s too small”.
What good is it then, I press, a map that nobody can read.
But they don’t have an answer for that.
I remark on their palatial offices, are they new I ask, very new they tell me proudly,
stroking the minted walls proudly. How many guests do you get every year I ask?
Ooooo, they suck their teeth, at least one hundred. One hundred! I repeat. Clearly they
mistake my retort as a sign that I am hugely impressed, yes, they confirm proudly, one
Do you know how many guests the Ngorongoro Crater gets, I ask? They don’t look very
interested but I tell them anyway“Two hundred a day! A day! And not even their offices
are this big”. The officials look askance and quite disbelieving. “Two hundred. It is not
I want to argue but husband has wasted enough time already and is anxious to press
on. ‘Get into the car”, he hisses. As I said I always listen, and live in perennial fear of
being left behind, so do as I am told and scurry out behind him.
We clamber further up and, I notice miserably, into the mist. I thought we’d left that at
home. We climb past endless potato farms, enormous sacks, 200 kgs each, are being
manhandled onto trucks which have ground their way up these hills and gouged the
road to deep ruts. Husband stops to enquire the price, Tshs. 30 000/- (Kshs.1,500/- or
US$16). “Shall we get a sack on the way back”, husband asks. Are you kidding? Who’s
going to eat all those before they go off (no locust teenagers at home until next holiday).
“But it’s such good value”. Not if they all go bad before we’re ten percent in, I remind
Within a few kilometres we find another vast peppermint construction, beside what is
evidently the park gate, the now redundant park HQ, given the shinier, newer ones
in Matamba. These have had a green face-lift but are utterly deserted, we sail on in
through the unmanned, slung wide barrier.
A few metres in and there’s a road to the left, sign posted for waterfalls. Given that we
can see very few flowers from the road, we assume this must be the entrance to God’s
bloom strewn garden, and because our map is illegible, we take it. It’s not long before
the road disintegrates to a track and then to something that, could be an access but
then again might not be. The only waterfalls we see are too far away to get to.
“Do you think this is it?” I ask husband,” the National Park I mean, not many flowers are
there? Shall we go back and ask?”
Ask who? Demands husband (yup, he’s one
of those: rarely consults a map, never reads a
manual and abhors asking directions’) ‘we’ll just
A little while later a boda boda (a motorcycle taxi)
appears from the other direction, wobbling down
the ghost of a road, a passenger and a sack of
spuds on the back.
‘Can this really be the National Park’, I ask again,’
if the boda bodas are riding thru it?’
Husband doesn’t have an answer to that. The mist
descends, a vapour of rain begins to softly fall,
the track gets worse and worse until eventually
we cannot move forward, not without somebody
pushing us, and we cannot turn around for the high
ledges that have been created road side as the
road itself has been eroded. Husband tries again
and again to get up and over a vertical slope. I sit
with eyes clenched shut and teeth gritted.
And then another boda boda appears. I felt less
indignant at this one than earlier ones. I desperately
flag him down and he and his passenger and cargo
of spuds comes to a shaky stop.
“Are we in the park?” “beh?”
Oh never mind, where’s the main road? Follow us,
they gaily say, promising that the worst bit of the
road is behind us.
So we do, we wobble along behind them for an
hour or so and they guide us back to the wide, firm
murram road we left which links Njombe with Kiyela
at the top of Lake Nyasa (also known elsewhere
as Lake Malawi). We thank the rider profusely and
head back towards Matamba, certain that we have
missed the correct access to the park. We drive
and drive, through a vast parastatal dairy farm,
until we find ourselves back at the peppermint
green abandoned park entrance, the barrier
still swung up, presumably to accommodate the
stream of boda boda traffic. For we have seen no
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